To All The Moms:Young and Old and Gone

“Children are the anchors of a mother’s life.”    Sophocles

On my FaceBook page I posted lots of pictures of my own mom, but here I thought I would write about being a mom – being a mom with grown children. My middle son once told me that the terms grown children and adult children didn’t make much sense. He claimed he was an adult and grown, but no longer a child.

I’ve thought about that a lot. How do we separate from the idea of the people in our lives, all grown, with beards (I have all sons), and wives, and children of their own, and the memories we have of them as children? How do we separate from the memories of them as little people learning to walk and talk and the knowledge that they might soon be helping us walk and remember the right words?

My sons are all those things to me: men grown with lives of their own, men with wives, men with children that they worry about and help raise with their wives, and the wispy memories of them as boys who I had to bandage scraped knees for, or discipline, or encourage, or teach the basics of life to. How did they grow into men so fast?

I often contemplate how I can be a good mom to them now that they no longer need me on a daily basis. I often have to check myself, when I’m tempted to be overly involved in their adult lives. After all, they are grown up now. My job for the most part is finished.

But that’s the thing about being a mom – we are always pulled by our hearts to love our children – adults or tiny little new humans – it is all the same to mothers.

My own mother is gone now over ten years. She was my best friend while she was here on this planet, giving me advice, helping me with my own children, teaching me till the very end. On Mother’s Day I think I miss her the most. I wonder what she would have thought of my grandchildren. I wonder what she would think of the men my boys have grown into.

Probably the best thing that I have ever given myself as a mother is the permission to let my sons just be who they are as adults. To not make demands on them to continue to notice me and give me their full attention. I had their attention for many years, and now they give most of their attention to their wives, their children, and of course their jobs and friends. I am here still as their mom, but I know I am no longer the most important person in their lives, and that is the way it should be. Thankfully, I have friends and a full life of my own. Thankfully, my sons are happy (as far as I know), and prosperous (for all outside appearances), and doing just fine. I am so thankful that I was the woman who got to be their mom and help them grow up. I am so thankful on this Mother’s Day that I was given the chance in this life to be a mom to three of the most wonderful boys I know (well, I do have two wonderful grandsons and three wonderful granddaughters too, not to mention three very wonderful daughter-in-laws).

Happy Mother’s Day to all the moms out there.

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IT’LL BE HARD TO LEAVE

“the air was soft, the stars so fine, the promise of every cobbled alley so great”.

Jack Kerouac

JACKKERQUOTE

San Francisco was bright, sunny, and warm, with a cool breeze blowing in off the bay. We took the BART to the city. My first time on a subway train. And then we took a cable car to get closer to our destination – City Lights Book Store. As someone who finds so much pleasure in hanging out anywhere in the company of books, visiting City Lights is right up there with my best book afternoons. So many books. Such a short afternoon. Such a small carryon bag.

The Cable Car and City Lights Books

I could have bought out the store, but since I’m flying home, I decided on just a couple of books written by people my son went to college with; how amazing is that?

I always like to promote new authors here on Beans Berries and Books, so here are the books I bought, in case you would like to check out the books and the authors for yourself.

 

I’ve started Song Book and I’ll give each of them a review on Goodreads if you are interested. You can also join me on Goodreads and follow other books that I’m reading if you like.

After visiting me on Goodreads you also might like to get to know these two, young, up- and-coming authors better. You can read about Sam Allingham here and you can read about Rosalie Knecht here. Happy reading!

After our bookstore trip, we walked a few blocks to the San Francisco Palace Hotel where my son and his new bride hosted drinks for their friends a few weeks ago for their wedding. He wanted to show me this beautiful hotel, and we sat in the Garden Court, and had afternoon “tea”. Those drinks have tea in them, but they also have something a little stronger. We also had crab sliders, which were absolutely delicious, and some yummy little sandwiches with melted cheese and pastrami between their toasted bread layers. The picture of the sky-lighted ceiling really doesn’t do it justice. It flooded the area with natural light. I enjoyed spending time with my son, but missed my new daughter-in-law as she had to work today.

I return to Ohio on Thursday, so only a few more days of enjoying San Francisco and all its wonderful sunshine. I hear it’s cold and rainy in Ohio. Tomorrow I have lunch with my son’s new mother-in-law, and get to enjoy another trip to the city.

Rudyard Kipling said: “San Francisco has only one drawback, ’tis hard to leave.” How true this is, how true.

Getting Ready to Travel

Very soon I’ll be on a plane, flying to the west coast to see my youngest son. He lives in Oakland, and the last time I was there, in 2014, so that I could have the whole California experience, there was an earthquake. The quake was actually in Napa. We had been sightseeing in Napa during the day, but at the last minute we decided to drive back to the Bay Area and stay at my son’s apartment instead of paying for a hotel for the night. Where we were in Oakland it only shook our beds and rattled pictures on the walls.  In Napa, at the center of the quake, the magnitude was 6.0. It shook buildings so badly the walls fell down. The pictures in the newspapers the next morning showed shops in shambles, restaurants missing walls, and lots and lots of spilled wine. I recently read an article that said some places in Napa are still trying to repair the damage.

I’m pretty sure I didn’t sleep for the rest of the time I was in California. I am an Ohio girl who is not used to the earth moving. But I’m also from a small rural University town, and the business of the Bay Area was a shock to me. I just was not prepared.

But I’m excited to go back. I know what to expect this time. The traffic. The people. The noise. The potential for moving earth. The beautiful redwoods, the Pacific Ocean, the beautiful landscapes, the fog the way it rolls in over the bay at night and rolls out in the morning (I like a foggy night or morning or walk on the beach). Most of all I’m excited to see my son and his new bride. He was married March to a beautiful, wonderful, woman who he met in California. I haven’t seen either of them for a year. They came to Ohio in 2016 to help me celebrate my 60th birthday. While we do FaceTime, it’s not the same as visiting with someone in person.

I’m also going to meet my new daughter-in-law’s parents on this trip too. I have been corresponding with my new daughter-in-law’s mom via e-mail for the past few weeks, and I feel like I know her already. I have not only gained a new daughter-in-law, I feel as though I have a new friend too.

KITESONBEACH
KITES ON STINSON BEACH 2014

While I’m excited to be in California again, even though the traveling alone part sometimes makes me nervous. I’ve been doing some extra meditations on being strong and capable. I’m just a little too young yet to be crippled by the fact that I have no one to travel with. I’ve even bought a new suitcase for the trip. And I’ve been going through my pictures from the last time I was in California, and reminding myself of how beautiful it is there.

COTTAGE
A COTTAGE AT STINSON BEACH 2014

I consider myself a strong, brave woman, who can do anything she puts her mind to, and certainly traveling alone is something I have to put my mind to.  I love a good adventure. But as a extroverted introvert (look it up – it’s a thing) I can honestly say, travel is one of the most fun-tiring-fun-scary-fun things that I do. I’m a mix of excitement and worry and nervousness. I’m usually traveling to see my youngest son. Thanks to him I’ve been to St. Louis, the Bay Area of California, and Bay St. Louis, Mississippi (and New Orleans – about a year after hurricane Katrina – 2005). I flew to St. Louis one year and the next year I drove. All. By. Myself. I remember sitting in my driveway checking to make sure I had everything for my trip and bursting into to tears. I still don’t know if it was excitement or fear. But I made it. Bay St. Louis is a beautiful place that I’d love to go back to and write on the porch of the Mockingbird Cafe Coffee House.

BRIDEANDGROOM
THE BRIDE AND GROOM 2017

Oh and I think I forgot to mention that I have terrible motion sickness, so this time I’m experimenting with a whole array of motion sickness remedies. Yesterday I took a car trip with a friend, we went to visit her parents in another charming little college town just 2 hours from here (where my youngest son went to college and where my friend is from). I wore one of those acupuncture wrist band things, and I’m happy to report that I made the whole trip without any car sickness. I can’t wait to try it out on the plane and the winding roads of California.

More pictures of the 2017 adventure in California to come.

Happy Sunday! Thanks for reading!

 

 

Technology Thursday

In my day job I often ask the question: “Can I e-mail that to you?” I work for a farming co-op, and this time of year customers want information about their accounts – how much they spent, how much grain they brought in, etc. I am always surprised when someone says, in a tone that indicates they are tired of this questions “Oh, no, I don’t do that.” Like it is some kind of secret that only a few people know.

I will admit, some of my friends are technology resistant. (I know one guy who still brags that he doesn’t have a cell phone). Maybe I was a bit resistant also two decades ago, when as a single mom, I decided to finish the college degree I had left behind. I remember my advisor telling me one day, “I have called you back for the last time, Karen. You have to learn to use e-mail. It’s not hard. If you have questions, go to IT, they will help you.” If this sounds harsh – it wasn’t. She helped me grow up technology-wise by leaps and bounds my first year.

Her message was clear. Stop being a Luddite and learn the technology you need to get along in college. I was at a large state university, so her advice, to “go to IT”, was a daunting task. While I had been using word processing programs, and accounting software, I had never really had an e-mail account. It was just something I had never thought about. The college provided us with an e-mail account I found out when I went to IT. They also gave me a password that was so long I couldn’t imagine how I would ever remember it. I did it. I learned to use e-mail, when it was pretty new – and I was about 40 years old. I felt very empowered.

Here’s what I’m saying about this issue of learning new technology and even more so keeping up with technology: everyone today should have an e-mail account that they use, and know the address for, and understand how to access from any computer. Not having an e-mail is like saying I’m homeless. I don’t have an address. (O.K. maybe a bit of an exaggeration, but honestly so much gets done this way today). Your doctor’s office e-mails reminders about appointments. Some stores will e-mail receipts. And your family and friends can keep in touch with you and you with them through this “new” technology.

What’s more,  most e-mail providers make it very easy to sign up for an account. Then it is only a matter of remembering your login name and password. Yes. Those who are unfamiliar with this kind of technology may have to write down their login name and password and keep it somewhere (a wallet, taped to a wall near their computer, in their pocket, etc.). And there are lots to helpful videos on YouTube that can help you walk through the process. Here’s one to start. How to set up a Gmail account.

I carried my login name and password with me for almost a year. I remember the excitement when one day, I realized I had remembered them both. I also remember the satisfaction, when after e-mailing my advisor for the first time, she responded to me very quickly. My e-mail was my lifeline that first year back to college. I could keep in touch easily with cohort members, my advisor, and even keep up to day with my bursar bill and my progress towards graduation. All without running from one office to the next on campus. I could do it from any lab, from any building, whenever I had a break in my schedule.

When my mom was 72 years old, my brother bought her a computer. She was so excited about e-mail. She taught herself how to set up an account and how to use it – she was like that. I suppose one of us said go to this email provider or that email provider and sign up, but she did it herself. Her e-mail address was Foxy1925. This was just like my mom. Fox was her maiden name, and in college Foxy was her nickname.

After my mom’s passing, it was such a comfort to sometimes find an e-mail that she had written the year before (I tend to save certain e-mails). And I will admit, e-mails don’t have the permanence that a handwritten letter has, but e-mail is a great way to send a note to someone far away and to exchange pictures. E-mail is the way things get done today. It is new, but it isn’t difficult. Being open to learning new things also keeps us young, and learning how to use an e-mail account will not only feel empowering, it will bring you messages from loved ones who may no longer live close to. What could be better then to wake up to an e-mail from a friend or loved one hundreds of miles away from you.

The other morning I woke up to an e-mail from my youngest son’s new mother-in-law. I will meet her and my son’s new father-in-law in a couple of weeks. My son lives in California, and he and his girlfriend were married in March. I have seen wedding pictures (they were married at the courthouse with friends) and pictures from a trip to Yosemite, and I have gotten to know his new mother-in-law through e-mails we have been writing to each other. Without e-mail all of this would still be a mystery to me. I’m happy that all those years ago as a “non-traditional” college student I took my advisor’s advice and learned how to use my e-mail.

If you are reading this blog, you probably are tech savvy enough to have an e-mail account, but I bet you know someone who doesn’t have one. Why not show them how to set an e-mail account, and then write to them? My mom loved getting up in the morning and discovering she had some e-mails to read and answer.

Help someone be a little bit more tech savvy!

Spring!

“No winter lasts forever. No spring skips its turn.” Hal Borland

Spring is one of my favorite times of year. On my way to work yesterday, I noticed a lawn that had bursted into bloom – crocuses I’m sure – all blue and green. There was a lone crocus in my middle son’s garden, a little limp from the cold night before, but beautiful to see. There were daffodils in a neighbor’s garden.

All these spring flowers and the promise of newness. I am planning my garden and reading books about the great outdoors.

Some of my favorite books about the outdoors: A Walk in the Woods, Bill Bryson; We Took to the Woods, Louise Dickinson Rich; Woodswoman, Anne LaBastille; The Hidden Life of Trees, Peter Wohlleben.

I’m planning my gardens too. I’ve lived in the Little Yellow House exactly a year now, and after a year of maintenance and getting to know the property, I’m ready to lay more gardens this spring. I had great success with a little herb garden last year, so that will expand. A bed for wild flowers, a bed for cutting flowers, a bed for vegetables, some beds around the house and garage. Lights and furniture and doors to paint. Lawn to mow.

One of my favorite gardeners is the Empress of Dirt. I love the picture of her yard on the front of her blog. It is my goal. She is an inspiration to me as I try to shape my empty yard into a lush, productive garden.

Think spring thoughts!

 

In Praise of Home

Home
Home

“Wishing you always, walls for the wind, a roof for the rain, and tea beside the fire. Laughter to cheer you, those you love near you, and all that your heart may desire.”

An Irish Blessing

The Irish. My ancestors. They sure had a way with a blessing. This one is a particular favorite. It reminds us that the important things in life are really those things that are simple. A warm fire, a hot cup of tea, and a place to call home with our loved ones near.

As we grow older, and I certainly fit into that demographic, we might think that we need to experience all the things that we haven’t had a chance to experience because of family obligation or jobs or both. We might think that fulfillment in the autumn of our lives can be found by cutting our ties of familiarity and to go traveling. We might imagine that being “fancy free” with no house, no car, devoid of responsibilities, the adventure of new places ahead of us will somehow bring us happiness.

But here’s the thing. All these things that are usually called responsibilities are also blessings. The warmth of a familiar home, a warm bed at the end of a day, the comfort of family, and lets not forget our friends, or the joy of a garden to work in and enjoy in the warm weather, or even the absolute joy of having a spare room to offer a friend or family member when one comes to visit.

In the past few years, I have thought that perhaps all these things that I see now as comforts were “tying me down”. For awhile I wasn’t even sure they were comforts. But then one day, I’m not exactly sure how I started to think this way, perhaps it was a cup of tea after a particularly long day at work, or sitting down to play my piano that I just moved back to my home after almost ten years of not having it, or a lovely evening with my son and his daughters, but I have started to realize that all the things that I had previously thought were tying me down, were really the greatest comforts and blessings of my life.  I am finding it amazingly comfortable and calming to think in this way. To think home is better than any trip to a far land. To think, an afternoon in the garden is better than any day trip. To think that a book and a cup of tea, on the couch, with my cat is a wonderful way to spend a weekend.

It’s true. My wanderlust is leaving me. I don’t care. It’s a comfort.

Happy Sunday!

Friends

“We are survivors, of each other. We have been shark to one another, but also lifeboat. That counts for something.” Margaret Atwood Cat’s Eye

Margaret Atwood’s Cat’s Eye Through a Foucauldian Optic: The Question of Power. This is the title of my graduate thesis. I have been working on re-writing it recently, and of course reliving the time in which I wrote it. While Handmaid’s Tale is getting a lot of publicity right now, because of the movie made from the book, to me Atwood’s book Cat’s Eye is one of her best books. It is about the friendships among 4 preteen girls. As only Atwood can do, she pulls back the curtain and exposes friendship for what it sometimes can be, messy, horrible, and devastating.

I have also been thinking a lot about what it means to be a friend to someone, and the hard work of letting go of friends who no longer fit into my life.

In my adult life, I have had to let go of a few friends, for a variety of reasons. One thing I’ve learned: I expect a lot out of my friends. One of the big things I expect is that they respect me as I respect them. I have a real problem with someone who wants to be my friend, but finds it difficult to respect my space, my time, or even boundaries that I may have set.

But I am getting much better at being honest about friends who show themselves to be rude, thoughtless, or disrespectful because I believe, that once a person shows you that ugly side of themselves, that they may have kept hidden for awhile – they mean it.

I don’t like people who pretend to be my friend, but don’t care if they humiliate me in public. I don’t like people who pretend to be my friend, but then disrespect me by saying and doing things they know bother me. I don’t like people who pretend to be my friend, but have no qualms about making me uncomfortable in any way, as long as it puffs them up.

It’s difficult to let go of a friendship that isn’t working, but trust me sometimes it is necessary. It is sad, that’s the truth, but necessary nonetheless.

I am so grateful for all the good friends I do have. I don’t let one bad experience (or two) ruin having friends for me. I have had some friendships for 20 years. These friends are true and wonderful. I am grateful beyond words for those true and good friends.

Happy Saturday!